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Saving the world [sound recording]
Julia Alvarez
Adult Fiction ALVAREZ

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In Alvarez's appealingly earnest fifth novel (after A Cafecito Story), two women living two centuries apart each face "a crisis of the soul" when their fates are tied to idealistic men whose commitments to medical humanitarian missions end in disillusionment. Alma Heubner's husband, Richard, goes to the Dominican Republic to help eradicate AIDS, while Alma, a bestselling Latina writer, stays at home in Vermont to work on a story about a real, ill-fated 19th-century expedition chaperoned by Dona Isabel Sendales y Gomez, the spinster director of a Spanish orphanage who agrees to vaccinate 20 of her charges with cowpox and bring them from Spain to Central America to prevent future smallpox epidemics. While the leader of the anti-smallpox expedition, Dr. Francisco Balmis, and Richard see their missions collapse in defeat, Dona Isabel and Alma surmount their personal depressions to find inner strength. Alvarez depicts her two heroines with insightful empathy and creates vivid supporting characters. But her effort to find resonating similarities between the intertwined plots sometimes feels contrived, and the details of Dona Isabel's odyssey slow the momentum. The narrative culminates in a compelling scene in which greed and ineptitude trump idealism, dramatizing the question of whether the means are ever justified by the ends. (Apr. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Fiftysomething novelist Alma Huebner is finding many excuses not to work on the book for which she's already received a hefty advance. She is staying home in Vermont while her husband, Richard, a manager for a humanitarian aid association, has been assigned to work at an AIDS clinic in Alma's native Dominican Republic. The story she is considering is that of the 1803 Balmis Expedition, which brought smallpox vaccine from Spain to its possessions in the Americas and the Pacific in the first major public health project in the New World. Alma relives the expedition through the account of Doña Isabel, the mistress of the Spanish orphanage whose wards were the carriers of the vaccine. When interwoven with Alma's contemporary tale, it mirrors Alma's experience as her husband's clinic is overtaken by rebels and he is taken hostage. Blanca Camacho's narration is splendid; she reads Alma's story energetically, conveying clearly all of her emotions. She uses a different voice for Doña Isabel's narrative and pronounces all the Spanish words and names with a beautiful Castilian accent. A compelling tale and a good addition to popular collections.--Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

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main characters Alma Heubner
husband is overseas helping to eradicate AIDS; bestselling author; turns her depression into inner strength; writes about Dona Isabel.

Dona Isabel Sendales y Gomez
Runs an orphanage; vaccinates 20 of her children with cowpox to prevent future epidemics; depressed.
Orphanage manager

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